How To Recover From A Massive Mistake At Work

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein.

I’m yet to come across anyone who can confidently say they’ve never made a mistake in the workplace. There are several contributing factors as to why we may make a mistake. Being overloaded, overworked, lack of sleep, lack of attention to detail or simply because you a learning or doing something new.

One thing I have learned is that as much as we don’t enjoy making mistakes, it’s how we recover from them that counts. We can’t control what’s already happened, however we can certainly control how we respond or react to it.

Here are 5 steps to recover when you make a massive mistake at work:


Shift your focus from dwelling on the problem and instead, look for ways you can resolve the matter. If you can refrain from speaking to your Manager until you’ve found a solution, I would generally recommend taking that approach – unless the situation really warranted an immediate admission. Most Managers would prefer to hear “I made a mistake, but I found a way to fix it and here are our options” as opposed to “I made a mistake and I don’t know what to do.”

Always aim to seek a solution and do to it immediately after the problem as been identified.


It’s not how we make mistakes, but how we stand up to them that defines us. Whilst it may seem tempting to try and cover up a mistake and not face the music, mistakes in the workplace have a way of resurfacing. Honesty is always the best policy. Whilst your Manager may initially feel disappointed by your mistake and / or concerned about business or commercial impact, they will respect you for being upfront and honest in a situation where it is not easy to do so.

There’s something to be said about taking accountability for our own actions. Don’t look to point the finger by blaming others or systems. The most courageous and admirable thing you can say is “I take full accountability for this.”


I’ve made my share of mistakes over the course of my career. But one thing I can confidently say is, that I’ve never made the same mistake twice. As long as you don’t repeat the same mistake, you’ll be ok.


When you make a mistake, take it as an opportunity to learn from the experience. Take a moment to reflect on the situation and ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did I make the mistake?
  • How did I handle it?
  • What part of this did I handle well?
  • What can I do better next time?
  • Are there processes can I put in place to prevent this from happening next time?
  • What have I learned from the experience?


Whilst it’s important to reflect on the situation, it’s just as important not to dwell on it. We can replay the situation over and over again in our minds. You need to decide “how much energy am I going to give to this?” Feeling terrible about the situation isn’t going to change it. So allow yourself a moment to feel how you want to feel, and then make a conscious decision to put any negative thoughts about it aside.

One of the tools I use that consciously helps me to move past these kinds of situations is the 5 by 5 rule. If it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it.


What are some of your experiences on making mistakes in the workplace and how did you handle them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, please leave your comments below!

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